FAA seeks research partner for nav tech

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering using a rarely invoked procurement authority, rather than the standard Federal Acquisition Regulation, to seek industry partnerships for developing technologies that can use the agency’s satellite-based navigation system. In place of the FAR, the FAA may use an alternative called "other transaction authority" (OTA).

A request for information released Monday states that the FAA is looking for expertise in the area of avionics, a term referring to the onboard electronic devices used in flight navigation. Avionics technologies will assist the FAA's modernization program by interpreting data collected from the new satellite navigation system, referred to as the Wide Area Augmentation System.

WAAS is a system of ground stations that improve the accuracy of the signal from Global Positioning System satellites to provide pilots with more precise position data.

The OTA was created by lawmakers to permit agencies to negotiate agreements for research or prototype-building projects with nontraditional vendors. Under the authority, contractors’ intellectual property rights are fully protected, an important consideration in developing new products for an agency.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, said agreements using the alternative method allow the government great flexibility in structuring a business deal with a company, including how to handle and -- from the company’s perspective -- protect IP and technical data.

“Among the concerns that have been expressed by principally commercial technology firms for a long time is that the government’s traditional contract requirements and practices leave the companies open to significant risk in the IP and [technical data] arenas,” he said. “Thus, among other things, OTA [agreements] provide a means through which the government and the companies can strike an appropriate business deal which protects the company’s and the government’s equities.”

According to the RFI, the FAA would disburse partial payments when the company reaches given milestones. The funds would come through Government-Industry Partnerships under one or more OTA agreements. The FAA attached a sample OTA agreement to the announcement.

Soloway added that the OTA model could enable the government to fulfill its long-term technology needs. “There’s a whole world of the industry that will work with the government but won’t do R&D with the government,” he said.

The RFI states that the FAA has in mind partnerships with GPS receiver manufacturers, flight management system vendors, aircraft manufacturers and airlines.

Responses are due March 31.

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